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Berkeley Co. unveils new police vehicle fleet

March 31, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County officials gathered around like salesmen in a showroom during a brief ceremony Thursday in Martinsburg to show off several new police vehicles recently placed in service by the county's Sheriff's Department.

The eleven new vehicles - six police cruisers and five four-wheel drive sport utility Dodge Durangos - which were presented by the Berkeley County commissioners and by representatives from the Sheriff's department, were purchased as part of the commission's five-year funding plan that will see a regular replacement of the county's fleet, said commissioner Ron Collins.

"We're set up to do eight vehicles every year," Collins said. "We're trying to get away from these guys driving these high-mileage cars."

Eight vehicles were budgeted by the county commission, while two were paid for by the county's Home Confinement fund, Collins said.

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The fund, which raised almost $99,000 in 2004, was started in 2002 to offset rising jail costs.

Another vehicle and a storage trailer used to keep barricade equipment, traffic cones and vehicle accessories, were purchased through a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. The county spent about $300,000 to purchase and prepare the vehicles for service, Collins said.

Sheriff's department officials also took the opportunity to roll out the department's MKII Vanguard robot, which also was purchased with Homeland Security funding last year.

The robot can be used to assist officers responding to situations that might pose a risk for officers, Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster said.

The robot, which cost about $56,000 and was built by Allen-Vanguard Inc., can respond to bomb threats, hazardous materials, and tactical and surveillance operations.

The robot has been used to investigate a suspicious package and has been featured as part of a public safety demonstration, Lemaster said.

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